The Need For Speed

I’ve always liked going fast. It started on my Big Wheel way back when I was about the size of a garden gnome, and continued on to numerous other manner of moving objects. If it had potential for locomotion, then I wanted to ride it as fast as possible. It became bicycles, rollerskates, skateboards, or snowboards. One of my first near death experiences involved putting skateboard trucks and wheels on one of my dad’s old skis and plummeting down the hill in front of my house. I started bombing ever steeper paved surfaces on my rolling devices, searching for velocities capable of reducing me to a tumbling meatball had I lost my balance or hit an obstacle. Soon I started jumping off of things like cliffs, trees, and roofs, flinging myself into things like lakes, oceans, and the shallow ends of pools. As I got older it turned into motorcycles, surfboards, and fast cars, but I was never too picky. Shopping carts, sleds, wheelbarrows, mopeds, handcarts, ice skates, wheeled luggage. Barrel-rolling down hills in garbage cans. Cardboard surfing down grassy hillsides. If it had potential to go downhill fast then I wanted to race it.

Some assumed that my love of going fast equated to reckless abandon, and that my need for speed would leave me either paralyzed or permanently covered in road rash. But considering the amount of time I spent racing toward terminal velocity in my pursuit of the extreme, my injuries were not all that extreme. Some minor scrapes and bruises, a few broken fingers and various other non-essential bones, a couple concussions that probably gave me dain bramage. Every time I fell I wanted to get right back up and try again. Many assumed that my desire to tear myself away from gravity’s smack down and immediately re-attempt whatever maneuver had slammed me into the Earth was a sign of mental instability. But I saw it as a sign of mental toughness, my red badge of courage. I told myself falling down was not failure Refusing to get up  and try again was failure. Fall down seven times, get up eight, I said. I think I can, I know I can, oh shit I’m going down, I said. But no matter how many times I fell, no matter how many times I hit the ground like a deflated basketball, I wasn’t a failure until I stopped getting up and trying again. I realize that eventually we’ll all hit the ground one last time and never stand back up, but until then I’m going to keep on getting back up and coming back for more.

Now fast forward to my current state of middle age. I still like going fast, but hitting the ground is far more painful these days. I don’t feel the need for speed as deeply as I feel the need to avoid falling. How fast can I go without risking personal injury has become my new mantra. When I was younger I’d hit the ground and bounce back up to my feet before I felt the pain. These day I stick to ground like I am covered in velcro. It is getting harder and harder to fight against the relentless pull of the Earth. Some might view middle age as the beginning of the end. A  person is said to be over the hill, implying that it is all downhill from here and life will soon become a meaningless burden as you plummet toward touch down. Does that mean when you are younger it is all uphill? Do we spend our entire youths laboring against some metaphorical gravitational impediment?

If there is one thing that I’ve learned while racing through life on unorthodox vehicles of all sizes — the downhill is supposed to be the fun part. Enjoy the ride.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Move

Give Me Leaves or Give Me Death

plant orgy in progress

When most people think of spring and plants they immediately think of flowers. How disgusting.  Did you know that a flower is the sexual organ of a plant? Most 7th graders don’t know this, and you should see the look on their faces when they find out. Priceless. I tell them that every time they sniff a flower the plant is using them to perform its sexual biddings. I tell them there are unmentionable things happening between the plants and their little “friends” the birds and bees. I make sure to use air quotes when I say “friends.” Really it’s a depraved nature orgy. And people like to cut the flowers off and display these colorful and pungent reproductive sculptures in their homes. How sick are we?

Personally when I think of spring I think of young, green leaves filling in on the trees and other plants. The leaves are the true workhorse of the plant, creating sugar money in their little chloroplast factories. Sure, they get some help from the stem and the roots as they help collect resources and deliver them, but really the true magic happens in the leaves. They are turning sunlight into food, storing the sun’s energy in their bodies until those calories can trickle down the food chain to all us hungry heterotrophs downstream. Keep your filthy flowers. Give me leaves, and I will know the world will be fed for at least one more trip around the sun.

Compiled for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

and, DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Student, Teacher

* disclaimer #1 – this is meant to be humorous and sarcastic. I do not tell my students that sex is disgusting and depraved. I tell them it is wonderful and life affirming and they should all go home after school and engage in it immediately.

One step at a time…

Screen shot 2014-05-03 at 10.42.28 AMI sometimes like to draw a box on the whiteboard in my classroom and write Everything written in this box is false, just to give the kiddos something to think about. Some of them get it and say I see what you did there, while others wear that blank, confused expression so common in middle school. Honestly some might never get it. But such Catch-22s and logical fallacies can exercise kids brains and train them in critical thinking.

Screen shot 2014-05-03 at 10.58.05 AMAnother thing I like to share is the Socratic paradox–the only thing I know is that I know nothing. Most kids are silenced by the logical loopty-loops their brains immediately undergo. I think it’s hilarious that when they understand what it means they are even more confused than when they don’t understand.

But recently when I said this a student flung a logical fallacy back in my face by responding, knowing that you know nothing is knowing something. It amazed me how quickly he was able to get to the point. When he said it the kid sitting next to him nodded his head piped in Yea. I felt speechless and a little humiliated. At least that’s a start, I told him finally. One step at a time.

So let’s all just remember to take things one step at a time, and not forget what we know. Or in the words of Mark Twain:

Mark Twain “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” ― Mark Twain (via Goodreads)

Read more teacherly posts HERE

DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Student, Teacher

Classroom Graffiti

It should be a recipe for disaster. The classroom left wide open during 7th grade lunch by a naive substitute. Seventh graders are notorious for shenanigans and poor decision making. Their favorite activities seem to be deliberately destroying things on accident and inventing new ways to bully each other. Low and behold a gaggle of 7th graders had snuck in to my classroom at some point and left graffiti splayed all across the whiteboard for me to find upon my return at the end of the day. It gave me strong feelings so I snapped a couple photos with my phone and then forgot all about it. I rediscovered the photos recently as I was going through and organizing older and older photos, trying to piece together the forgotten days of my past.

This was my white board on the day before the last day of school 4 years ago, which was coincidentally the last year I taught 7th grade science.



This is the type of thing that makes me really love being a teacher. If only every day could end like this.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters



You know what’s happening, that’s the hard part. You’ve seen it hit so many other people, and the symptoms are so well known and hard to ignore. The fever, the pale skin, the cloudy eyes, the odor of rancid milk. And then there’s the unbelievable craving for brains. It’s inexplicable. It’s not like they’re some sort of gourmet masterpiece of culinary delight. Honestly, they make me nauseous. It’s a texture thing, like overripe banana. Just kind of mushy and no flavor, hard to actually swallow, but for some reason I cannot get enough. The brain cravings are even worse than the nicotine cravings I had before I was afflicted. I usually started craving my next smoke when I was half way done with the one I was smoking, but at least I found smoking enjoyable on some level. How depressing it is to not only be a zombie, but to be so disgusted by the one and only thing my so called life now seems to revolve around.

There is a short period of time when the sickness first hits that you realize what is happening and you become very emotional. There are tears, angry tantrums, a lot of feeling sorry for yourself and asking why me. The thought of blowing your head off with a shotgun makes numerous appearances. Then the emotion fades away suddenly and you feel okay with it. It’s not so bad. No more pain or depression. No more bills or taxes. No more sneaking off to smoke a cigarette when no one’s looking. No more responsibilities or worries, almost like a vacation. But then you get your first whiff of brains and you lose it. Brains are all you can think about, like some sort of preteen on a One Direction binge. I have urges to get an I ♥ brains tattoo even though I don’t really love them. I’m caught up in all the hysteria. I don’t want to regret it later.

Got Brain? (by DBDimitrov on Flickr)

So I’m trying to deal with this brain fetish thing. I wish there were Brain Addicts Anonymous meetings. A 12 step peer support group. A sponsor I could call when the craving hits, which I’ve got to say is pretty much all the time. Not like I could actually use a telephone anymore. All coordination of my fine muscle control has abandoned me, leaving me lurching around like a corpse with a handicap. But while my body deteriorates I’ve still got all these thoughts in my head and no way to express them. My tongue fell out last week. I can barely even lift my arm anymore let alone bend my fingers. I’m lucky if I can actually stand up and balance these days. It’s embarrassing. But when I get a whiff of that brain matter I get a sudden surge of energy and stumble off toward the source, asking myself what have I become.

I’m on the hunt now, having got the faintest hint of fresh meat in the air. Me and few of my zombie bros are shuffling down the street with teetering purpose. I catch a glimpse of myself in a storefront window as I’m hobbling along, and I can’t help but think that I look like shit. But compared to some of these other car wrecks I actually don’t look so bad. At least most of my face is still there. At least all my limbs are still attached. My tongue is gone but honestly it was just getting in the way. But I don’t stand for long, because the scent is strong.

Then I see the meal ticket already swarmed by brain addicts. I’ll be lucky if there is anything left the way the melee is digging in. I feel sick but I can’t help it. I stumble toward the bloody mess in hopes of getting a sad little morsel. I see another zombie approaching from the opposite side, and our vacant eyes meet for a moment. I can sense that he is sharing my feelings about our current situation, saying what the fuck bro, can you believe this shit with his cloudy eyes. I wonder if we all have these same disgusted, self-loathing thoughts as we continue about our business. I wonder if we are all sad little prisoners trapped inside our decaying bodies, addicted to something we don’t really want.  Then he shrugs his shoulders, which is no easy feat for a zombie, and dives into the swarming mass of brainivores. And I of course dig in from the other side, hoping to get at least a taste, and I have only one thing to say for myself.


Gunning Late

Doc Brody was late for the appointment, which had clearly been made for high noon. He had personally requested my promptness. “Don’t be late,” he’d said. How unprofessional. How inconsiderate. Was his time somehow more valuable?

What kind of self respecting outlaw shows up late for a gun fight anyway?

Six Gun City (by Carolinadoug on Flickr)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty

For this week’s challenge, you must write a fifty-word story. Not five thousand, not five hundred, but precisely fifty words.

See my other fifty word stories HERE.

Humorous Sorrows

I deal with the blues by using humor. I don’t know how but it makes me feel a little better, but also can have the unintended consequence of hiding my true sorrow.

I was in an accident recently that was pretty bad, and ended up missing almost 3.5 months of work. Here is an email update I sent to my boss (the principal). He took it as an indication that my spirits were doing well. It guess it masked the serious depressed sentiments I had at the time. I sent this email exactly one month after the accident.

re: News from the doctors…

Thursday, November 07, 2013 12:39 PM

From: Science Teacher [SV]

To: Mr Principal  [SV]‎; Mrs Office Manager [SV]
Cc: Mrs Vice Principal [SV]‎; Miss Union Rep [SV]


I got some good news and some bad news today. First the good news. My ankle looks great, and the surgery went perfectly. I got a plate and four screws installed, and I think my ankle will now be both bulletproof and bionic. It may also help improve my cell phone reception and be usable as a wifi hotspot, and the hardware does come with a one year warranty. I also got my stinky old splint off and got a shiny new boot. Even after only 12 days the stench on that plaster splint was debilitating and probably neurotoxic. So yeah for the shiny new boot!

Now for the bad news, which unfortunately is more plentiful. I’ll number the items so you can keep track.

  1. Even though I am in a boot I can only put partial weight on my foot, so will still need crutches until the big screw gets removed. Putting too much weight on my foot may result in the screw breaking, which I’m told would be very bad. In case you didn’t know, breaking things in your ankle is bad, even if they are things that aren’t really supposed to be there in the first place.
  2. The necrosis on the front of my shin has finally revealed a large open wound in the center where the impact occurred. The wound is so large they recommend a skin graft operation, which will happen as soon as the wound heals a bit more underneath. In the meantime the doctors had to debride the dead flesh, which looked like an impromptu scene from the Walking Dead. What is left is a great big window through my flesh straight down to the bone. Luckily the extensive nerve damage in the area means I could not feel any pain during the procedure, and feel no pain now. Who ever thought nerve damage could be lucky? Perhaps this should have been included in the good news above.
  3. They finally took a much closer look at my knee. There is an MRI scheduled for Monday to confirm for sure, but the initial diagnosis today was that I most likely completely tore my ACL, MCL, and possibly the PCL, but the LCL is strong like bull (3 out of 4 ain’t bad). My knee is extremely unstable and I am recommended not to put any weight on my leg at all to protect the knee, even though I am supposed to put partial weight on my foot to help heal the ankle bones. The burly medical knee brace that is supposed to help protect my knee from twisting and popping wildly out of joint can’t be worn with a boot, and my eventual skin graft will probably also inhibit my ability to wear the knee brace properly. I am thinking of designing a hybrid walking boot knee brace to help fulfill all my doctor’s wishes and improve my locomotive potential.
  4. I was referred to a plastic surgeon about the skin graft. The area is so messed up and swollen she told me it may be a month or more before I would be able to undergo the procedure. She told me I should keep my leg elevated above my heart at least 22 hours a day. I’ve decided the easiest way to do this is to learn to walk on my hands like an ambidextrous acrobat from Cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately my initial attempts have not proven successful. I fear the percoset may be inhibiting my powers of proprioception, but luckily also makes the prospect of falling on my head less inhibiting.
  5. I have basically been given three completely contradictory courses of treatment from my doctors. Foot doctor: start putting partial weight on your ankle to stimulate healing, but don’t break the screw. Knee doctor: don’t put any weight on your knee without wearing the knee brace that you can’t actually wear. Plastic surgeon: keep your shin above your head at all times except when using the toilet or trying to take a one footed shower with a plastic bag over your leg. Luckily percoset not only helps with pain, but also helps one deal with paralyzing bouts of irony.
  6. Each of my doctors has told me that completely removing my leg and installing a fully bionic model is not an option.

Okay, so what’s next? I’m not sure honestly. All I know right now is that unless I can perfect my hand walking technique, my date of return is still up in the air. I was really hoping that I could return by November the 18th but that’s looking less and less likely, as I will possibly be needing additional (up to four) surgeries. My numerous doctor’s notes excuse me from physical activity until 2014!

It is getting harder and harder for me to keep up with the planning and grading of my different classes. At what point does hiring a long term sub become an option?

I really really really really really really wish I had more good news to share. Unfortunately this is what I got. Let me know what the options are moving forward.

Cordially, Jefe

the shiny new boot

Reposted for the DP Daily Prompt: Singing the Blues